Roger Waters Warns 'Future of All of Us' Hangs Upon Julian Assange Extradition Court Ruling
11:07 GMT 29.10.2021 (Updated: 18:30 GMT 03.11.2022)
CC BY 2.0 / Alterna2 http://www.alterna2.com / Roger Waters in Barcelona (Spain) during The Wall LiveRoger Waters in Barcelona (Spain) during The Wall Live
As two days of hearings in the extradition case of Julian Assange wrapped up in London on 28 October, the UK High Court said it would issue a ruling at a later date pertaining to the US government’s appeal against the 4 January court decision that it would be “oppressive” to extradite the WikiLeaks publisher due to mental health grounds.
Julian Assange’s extradition to US custody to face espionage charges would deal a deadly blow to the free press, believes Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters.
Waters also slammed the entire Washington-launched appeals process as a “kangaroo court,” and warned of the imminent danger to the fourth estate – in a reference to the news media and their role in the political process.
“The future of all of us, and all of our children and grandchildren hangs upon this court case. If they destroy the fourth estate – which is what they're trying to do by destroying Assange – they destroy the world,” said Waters.
Dismissing the arguments provided in the case against the Australian editor, publisher and activist who founded WikiLeaks in 2006, Waters denounced as “absolute nonsense” that the man has been locked up, in a nod to the journalist’s seven year-stint in London’s Ecuadorian Embassy under political asylum, followed by his 2019 arrest and incarceration in the UK’s maximum-security Belmarsh prison.
© Photo : Alfred de ZayasUN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order Alfred de Zayas with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in April 2015.
UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order Alfred de Zayas with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in April 2015.
© Photo : Alfred de Zayas
The English songwriter, singer and composer who co-founded the progressive rock band in 1965 also criticized Judge Vanessa Baraitser’s initial January ruling as “mealy-mouthed” and leaving open the chance for an appeals case.
“If she’d listened to the evidence and if she was a proper judge and if she made a proper judgement, she would have said there is no case to answer – case dismissed, set the prisoner free. She didn’t,” said Waters.
The musician also weighed in on the assurances being presented by the US side that Assange, if extradited, would not be confined to a “supermax” federal prison. Waters claimed that Washington authorities were “lying through their teeth,” as he cited the legacy of torture surrounding the US-run Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.
In the event that the court decides to grant the US extradition request, Roger Waters urged the Assange defence team to similarly launch an appeal “to challenge all the ludicrous nonsense that’s gone on up until this point.” Waters concluded by urging WikiLeaks, all supporters of Julian Assange and the free press to “go on making as much noise as they can.”
“We are not going anywhere at all, and our voice is going to get louder and louder and louder until Julian Assange is set free. I can promise you that,” he said in the interview.
Court Adjourns on Assange Extradition Appeal
On 28 October Britain’s High Court vowed to issue its ruling at a later date, with Judge Ian Burnett saying:
“You’ve given us much to think about and we will take our time to make our decision.”
The two-day hearing wrapped up in London in an appeals case which, if successful, would see the extradition issue sent back to the lower court for a new decision. According to WikiLeaks editor Kristinn Hrafnsson, the UK High Court judges may take up to six weeks to issue their verdict.
The original ruling in January by District Judge Vanessa Baraitser cited a real and “oppressive” risk of suicide. Lawyers for the US authorities hoped to overturn the ruling, insisting that the judge had been “misled” by Michael Kopelman, a key psychiatric expert who testified regarding Assange’s mental state.
© AFP 2022 / TOLGA AKMENJohn Shipton, the father of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, poses for a photograph as he arrives at the Old Bailey court in central London on September 8, 2020, on the second day of the resumption of Assange's extradition hearing
John Shipton, the father of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, poses for a photograph as he arrives at the Old Bailey court in central London on September 8, 2020, on the second day of the resumption of Assange's extradition hearing
On the first day of the appeal hearing, James Lewis, lawyer for the US government, said Washington had provided written pledges Assange would not be detained at the ADX Florence jail in Colorado, if extradited.
“Diplomatic assurances are a solemn matter… These are not dished out like smarties,” Lewis was cited as saying.
Furthermore, they claimed he could be able to serve a sentence in his native Australia, if convicted. However, Assange’s defence team argued both their client’s persistently fragile mental state and substantial risk of suicide remaining, as they expressed doubt that the journalist would not end up in isolation upon arrival in the US. “This is not some distant fact. This is going to happen as soon as he arrives in America,” English barrister Edward Fitzgerald QC, for Assange, was quoted as saying.
Julian Assange is wanted by the United States on espionage charges after WikiLeaks published thousands of classified documents that shed light on alleged war crimes committed by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. If put on trial and convicted in the US, the whistleblower faces up to 175 years in prison.